How to get access to Climate Funding (II)

How to get access to Climate Funding (II): Funding activities related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) 
This second session was structured in 4 major chapters: (1) an introduction to REDD+; (2) an overview of the existing funds for REDD+ activities; (3) a more analytical part on how REDD+ funding is working in practice; and (4) a final section with some indications on possible future developments and an overall conclusion.
In the introductory part, the expert Mr. Duncan Brack outlined the background of REDD+, explained the basic concept, summarised the main challenges, highlighted the implementation issues and provided a clear overview of the major multilateral and bilateral initiatives that provide assistance as well as funding for REDD+ including some information on how these several initiatives start cooperating.
In the second chapter, he focused on eligibility criteria and access procedures of the major existing REDD+ funds: the Readiness Fund and the Carbon Fund of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the World Bank’s Forest Investment Programme (FIP), the UN-REDD programme, the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF), Australia’s International Forest Carbon Initiative (IFCI), and finally the Clean Development Mechanism for Afforestation and Reforestation (CDM A/R) activities.
In the third chapter, he analysed and compared the performance of the respective funds and initiatives and highlighted the current overlaps and gaps.
For the final section of his presentation, Mr. Brack quoted and commented on a recent study on REDD+ conducted by CIFOR. The concluding quote – reflecting well the present state of play - being “The litany of problems by the first generation of REDD+ initiatives can make for discouraging reading. But despite adverse changes in the broader context, and hard lessons learned from early experience, the potential of REDD+ continues to capture the imagination and attract continuing investment at all levels... REDD+ as a worthy objective is still very much alive”.

The question and answer session following the presentation gave evidence of a keen interest of the attending members of the Subcommittee in the addressed topic. Numerous issues were raised and clarifications sought.

On the reasons for the slow pace of disbursement of available funds for REDD+ activities, Mr. Brack clarified that the preparatory documents that must be produced to get access to funds already require substantial time and inputs. For example, to receive a grant from the FCPF Readiness Fund, applying countries must prepare first a Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) and then a Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP). Preparing, submitting and getting these documents approved easlily takes 3 years as experience has shown. Mr. Duncan thereby indicated that the main reason why the preparation of these documents takes such a long time is that we are dealing with forest interventions and that forests are complex systems with multiple functions and a wide range of interest groups. Hence, when new funds become available for forests and interventions are being planned, this planning necessarily requires important consultations and careful considerations of all aspects, sectors and stakeholder groups that might be affected by possible interventions. Nevertheless, with growing experience, it is realistic to expect substantial acceleration of disbursements in the coming years.

Mr. Brack’s opinion was sought on the legitimity of the practice of some airline companies offering their passengers/clients the opportunity to compensate the emissions generated by their flight through a financial contribution and then invest the generated capital in tree planting programmes, e.g. tree planting by Air France in Madagascar. Mr. Brack confirmed that this has become a rather common practice amongst airline companies but emphasised that it is difficult to assess to what extent the emissions are compensated in terms of carbon sequestration by tree planting and to what extent the financial contribution of a passenger allows effective compensation (cost of planting). Such assessments require complex calculations. Researchers have worked in this area and documents with methodologies, modeling and estimates are available. But, as a conclusion, he affirmed that the described compensation mechanism is generally accepted.

Referring to the lack of coordination between the several REDD+ initiatives, a participant wanted to know whether and how that might affect SIDS. Mr Brack replied that in that respect, SIDS are no more affected than other countries. On the other hand, SIDS face a range of common problems and challenges which are very well summarised on the website of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS):

Also the issue of the contradiction that the international community supports simultaneously REDD+ activities and activities that drive deforestation, e.g. the production of palm oil, was raised. Mr Brack confirmed that this was indeed a contradiction and a problem but he also indicated that major players are increasingly aware of the situation and that corrective measures are underway. For example, the EU is considering a certification system guaranteeing that the production of commodities that are imported in the EU zone has not contributed to deforestation. Another example from the private sector concerns the company UNILEVER: as an important buyer of palm oil, the company is now considering a “green palm oil” label guaranteeing the consumer that the palm oil has been produced in a sustainable way, hence not on cleared forest areas.

Subsequently, it was asked whether a country that prepared for REDD+ with the support from and following the procedures and mechanisms of one of the international REDD+ funds would be eligible to apply for funds for stages 2 (pilot) and 3 (implementation with a pay-for-performance system) with another fund. The reply was that the problem has not yet arisen as all countries are still in phase 1 (REDD readiness). Further, in view of the currently improving coordination between the initiatives and funds, it can be expected that switching from one fund to the other will be fully accepted and that a considerable level of compatibility will be created over the coming period.

On the question on how to encourage participation and engagement (financial support, carbon market, sustainable production activities) of the private sector, it was clarified that this would require some form of “return” on investments/contributions. As no forest carbon market exists, it is difficult to realise such return and hence to get the private sector more engaged. For the time being, the only “motivators” for private enterprises are: charity, image building and special business interest in the forest.

On the issue of proliferating, scattered and unreliable information on REDD+, the participants were informed that the steadily growing coordination in the sector would also solve this problem over time.

In the presentation it was indicated that several bilateral initiatives and funds had been created over the last years, mainly based on frustration about the slowness of the multilateral counterparts. On the kind of consequences that this trend could have for the sector, it was emphasised that the bilateral initiatives try to identify and fill gaps. Further, the major bilateral initiatives also continue contributing substantially to the multilateral ones. In that respect, he believed, there would be no risk for duplications and further confusion. The involvement of the bilateral partners should be seen as a relatively flexible and fast way to fill gaps and complement multilateral funds.

As the presentation on REDD+ funds did not include the Intra-ACP GCCA+ Programme, a question was raised on funding opportunities within the Intra-ACP Climate Change Programme for REDD+ activities. It was clarified that REDD+ activities are undertaken in a number of the regional components of the programme and that additionnally ACP Member States can request short term technical assistance (e.g. drawing up project proposals, develop a national REDD+ strategy or Roadmap), support for capacity building in REDD+, and further technical information and advice through the ACP Secretariat in Brussels ( Nevertheless, financial support is not available as the entire budget has been allocated during the formulation phase. The programme facilitates the implementation of activities and provides technical assistance, but it is not a fund.
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